Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nanos: Liberals and Conservatives neck in neck

New numbers from Nanos that confirm the horserace numbers we've seen in recent polls, putting the Liberals and Conservatives in a statistical deadheat:

With the national numbers virtually unchanged since the last poll, it looks like the Liberals and Conservatives are in a holding-pattern of sorts. The regional numbers show Conservative strength in the West (remember the Alberta advantage) but the Liberals gaining some ground on the NDP. The Liberals show strength in Atlantic Canada and Ontario. Finally, in Quebec the numbers are volatile. The BQ show a 10-point lead over the Liberals with the Conservatives well back, but with the Liberals having shedded 11 points since the last poll to the BQ and, interestingly, the Greens, With the regionals its always important to remember the margin, but there may be some annoyance with the Liberals there over the end of the coalition. If that's the case, though, interesting the NDP couldn't capitalize.

The leadership numbers also mirror the trend of recent polls, showing Stephen Harper still leading, but Michael Ignatieff quickly closing the gap. The trend since his becoming interim leader is striking. Speaking of trends, its interesting to note that Jack Layton's downward trend dates back to election day, although it accelerated with Ignatieff's arrival.

The leadership break-down shows across the board gains for Ignatieff, although Harper continues to lead across the board. Harper was down in trust and competence but held his ground in vision for Canada. Layton was down across the board, suffering his biggest drop in competence.

Here's the analysis from Nanos:

Our latest wave of ballot tracking shows that the tight race between the Conservatives and the Liberals continues. The Conservatives are ahead in Western Canada, while the Liberals hold an advantage in Ontario.

Stephen Harper continues to hold a leadership advantage over the other national leaders. However, Harper held a 44 point advantage when Stephane Dion was leader of the Liberal Party, since Michael Ignatieff stepped in as interim leader of the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister's leadership advantage has decreased to 19 points. Also of note, Jack Layton's leadership score is down 16 points since the previous wave of research.

My Analysis

Since they first formed government the Conservatives have bounced around between appx. 31-38 per cent support, while the Liberals have bounced between appx. 26-34 per cent. Every once and awhile, they'd intersect.

I think the Conservative volatility speaks to a lack of firm, committed support beyond the 31 per cent level -- these voters can be moved, but they haven't been enamored with any of the alternatives. The Liberals have been able to knock those votes lose at times but haven't been able to convert them into Liberal support.

The leadership numbers reflect a willingness to give the Ignatieff-led Liberals a chance, but I think those numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. Dion scored very poorly on leadership questions, so how bunch of this increase is Ignatieff and how much is "Not Dion" is an open question. While negative ads could impact these numbers, they do at least speak to an opportunity for Ignatieff to define himself and challenge Harper on leadership once more, potentially opening-up Liberal growth potential beyond 33 per cent.

Overall, I think we're in a holding-pattern. The budget seems to have changed little. The Conservatives are at the low-end of their trough, having gotten no budget bounce after dropping following their fiscal update shenanigans. The Liberals are at the high-end of their trough, but unable to capitalize on softening Conservative support.

I think people are waiting to see how the government governs through this economic crisis, and how Ignatieff performs as interim Liberal leader. If he can continue to improve his leadership numbers and demonstrate both competence AND a genuine alternative, he may be able to grow us past the 33 per cent ceiling. I've been saying for some time we have more growth potential than the Conservatives, but we've never been able to realize it, and it's possible Dion's leadership scores were holding us back from converting soft Conservative support.. The next few months will be interesting.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Mr. Lorne said...

The Conservatives lost support from some voters (like me) for their ultra-spend budget. This is not a conservative budget and I think they proposed it just to prevent a coalition take-over. They've lost their ideological purity to small-c conservative supporters like me and I think they're going to have a tough time getting it back.

Jeff said...

I was going to mention that possibility Leeky. But the question I have, and perhaps you can answer it, is where to small-c ideological conservatives turned-off Harper go? Certainly not Liberal, unless the calculation is a Liberal victory will hasten Harpper's departure and create the chance to install a new, more conservatively sympathetic leader. But do they stay home? Go to a fringe party like the CHP?

It would take an awful lot of such defections to substantially move the numbers.

I think the canary in the coal mind though, as to small-c angst, will be donation numbers. There a withdrawal of support would be more obvious, and impactful. If there is a conservative exodus (and I'm not sold because, as I said, where do they go?) I'll expect to see it there first.

burlivespipe said...

Where did small-c conservative voters go in the '90s? I'd say for those east of Thunder Bay, they did go Liberal, trending slowly homeward after the unification of the right. I wouldn't completely write off Ignatieff's ability to attract strays in the long term, (here leeky-leeky-leeky! Nice kitty...) given Harper's penchant for over-estimating his own abilities and the wear-and-tear his reputation has taken in the past few months. Of course, there's sense that he isn't willing to fight as dirty as possible, and who knows how low that could be...